Tags: tilikum | dies | killer whale | drowned | trainer

Tilikum Dies: Killer Whale Drowned Trainer, Led SeaWorld Downfall

Image: Tilikum Dies: Killer Whale Drowned Trainer, Led SeaWorld Downfall

Killer whale Tilikum watches as SeaWorld Orlando trainers take a break during a training session at the theme park's Shamu Stadium in Orlando, Florida, Monday, March 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

By    |   Friday, 06 Jan 2017 01:39 PM

The killer whale Tilikum died Friday, ending the saga of the mammal connected with the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau and that inspired the documentary "Blackfish."

Tilikum fathered more than a dozen offspring while in captivity at SeaWorld Orlando, but also led to the theme park's downfall when he killed Brancheau in 2010, the Orlando Sentinel reported. The trainer's death led to tidal wave of controversy and the documentary that highlighted the stress killer whales are under in captivity.

SeaWorld has not yet recovered from the financial and public relations effects of Brancheau's death.

Tilikum, the 12,000-pound, 23-foot orca, had been a part of SeaWorld for 25 years and was believed to be about 36 years old, according to WKMG-TV.

In a statement, SeaWorld said Tilikum was receiving "around-the-clock, world-class" care while battling some serious health issues.

"While the official cause of death will not be determined until the necropsy is completed, the SeaWorld veterinarians were treating a persistent and complicated bacterial lung infection," said SeaWorld. "The suspected bacteria is part of a group of bacteria that is found in water and soil both in wild habitats and zoological settings.

"Tilikum's veterinarians and caretakers delivered various treatment regimens over the course of this illness, which consisted of, among other things, combinations of anti-inflammatories, anti-bacterials, anti-nausea medications, hydration therapy and aerosolized antimicrobial therapy," the statement continued.

SeaWorld acknowledged that Tilikum will always be connected with Brancheau's death, but said they unreservedly offered the orca the best care available.

"Tilikum had, and will continue to have, a special place in the hearts of the SeaWorld family, as well as the millions of people all over the world that he inspired," SeaWorld President and Chief Executive Joel Manby said in the statement. "My heart goes out to our team who cared for him like family."

In "Blackfish," former SeaWorld trainers were critical of the park's practices, charging it was harmful to orcas and dangerous for the people who worked with the animals. They argued that Tilikum and animals like him behave aggressively because of the stress of living in captivity.

While the park denied mistreatment allegations, it did decide to phase out its orca breeding program and killer whale shows.

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The killer whale Tilikum died Friday, ending the saga of the mammal connected with the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau and that inspired the documentary "Blackfish."
tilikum, dies, killer whale, drowned, trainer
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2017-39-06
Friday, 06 Jan 2017 01:39 PM
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